Not that the Daily Mail football section was much of a read for the rest of last week, with adverts for King Edward potatoes almost every day to prolong the utterly tedious will he/won’t he move to Chelsea. SO WHAT? The much-hyped encounter between the two clubs involved last Monday was about as exciting as watching wet cement set, yet still got five pages of drivel whilst decent games played elsewhere get barely a mention.
Whilst also on the subject of tedious news stories of non-action, this week’s Pot Calling Kettle Black award must surely go to Monsieur Whinger, sorry Wenger, having a pop at Spurs’ recent influx of foreign imports. No need to remind you then of how you progressively dismantled an English back four and ultimately fielded the first non-British Premiership side some years back with your own transfer policy, oh whingey arsey one.
Phew! That’s a lot to get off my chest. Today then. Well, I guess the unbeaten start to the season had to come to an end sometime, but we’ll return to that. From a personal point of view this was the game most looked forward to since the fixture list appeared in June. As a result, I was down at the DW last week to buy a ticket for my girlfriend – so she could sit with her brother-in-law, a Latics’ season ticket holder. What a traitor! To make matters worse we were just four miles from the DW before she’d realised she’d left it at home, necessitating a hasty turn-around to collect said ticket. Not a good start to the day, but inevitably a right proper ribbing from a family of Latics persuasion awaited after the game, despite my girlfriend’s dad’s honest prediction last week that we’d give Wigan a right stuffing as payback for the footballing lesson they meted out on us in the League Cup twelve months ago.
To say that a lot’s happened since Forest’s last trip here would be something of an understatement. Opening day of the disastrous ‘We’re Serious About…’ season which ultimately saw both Forest and The Latics exit the 2nd tier in opposite directions. Nine years later, and with the Premiership crowds finally departed, travelling fans can once again enjoy singing ‘your ground’s too big for you’ as ours certainly did today. In fairness there were far more here today than nine years ago, but certainly plenty to suggest the glory-hunters have evaporated since May, even with an FA Cup under their belt. There was also the prospect of a mini reunion of Reds past and present who played in that curtain-raiser nine years ago: Reidy for us and James Perch for The Latics (having made his debut for us that day), the latter ultimately an unused sub today, and Grant Holt would play no part today having turned up to the ground in crutches following his injury last week.
FLC, Saturday 31 August 2013, KO 1500hrs|
Wigan Athletic 2 - 1 Nottingham Forest
|Weather/Conditions||Breezy but dry, occasional bright sunshine|
|Away fan experience||A rip-roaring 4000-ish following almost completely filled the steeply rising North Stand today with plenty of noise made that didn’t go unnoticed by the home fans. Usual repertoire of songs and chant (with some choice mocking of certain home features, namely that annoying drum at the top of the East Stand and that even more annoying ex-Dingle manager of theirs), but from personal experience the inclusion of the ‘Come on For-est, Come on For-est’ chant to the tune of Auld Lang Syne is the kiss of death since we lose every time I hear it. Inevitable persistent standing meant the whole game was watched on our feet (I wish there was a better way of being able to choose!). We may have lost today, but the travelling fans really got behind the boys and were duly rewarded when they came over to us at Full Time. Good atmosphere today.|
|Facilities||Easy ground to find and get away from if you know your way around – a little tricky if you don’t, though good facilities for travelling fans with the Soccerdome bar near car park (though points deducted for curtailed food service and the gassiest pint of San Miguel all year), various eateries outside North Stand and various fare including beer available inside. Good clean and modern facilities in concourse area another reminder that those at City Ground could do with a revamp.|
|Programme||A classy-looking publication, an early contender for away programme of the season and with plenty of stuff on Forest’s past and present.|
Forest, meanwhile hurled everything but the kitchen sink at Scott Carson’s goal without really forcing him onto making any serious saves, once again raising the question of whether another prolific goalscorer is what we need. Lack of final punch was a factor in the second half, but on the whole we were unlucky not to pick up a point today, meaning this week’s Lancashire Red broken sequence comes in the form of our first ever league defeat by The Latics. Disappointing, certainly after such a good start to the season, and yours truly had to run a gauntlet of smug Latics fans back at my girlfriend’s parents’ house, as they offered all sorts of overblown statistics about the number of fouls we committed, etc. though once again the media were exercising their usual anti-Forest stance to paint a totally different picture of proceedings. Oh, well – at least we’re speaking, with the promise of sweet revenge on March 1st.|
Add to this of course the ref who was blatantly wearing a Latics shirt and in great danger of turning the game into a farce, first by denying Cohen a penalty having been tripped over by a cowering Espinoza, and then – worst of all – Gomez trying a Rivaldo-style recoil to make it look like he’d been hit by Harding. The cheating Espinoza was thankfully subbed before he could do more damage, though it was two minutes before time before any Latics’ player was made an example of for timewasting, with Beausejour being the only player booked.
Half time provided the best cue for change, as Guedioura made way for Harding, allowing Chris Cohen to move upfield. Suddenly we were watching a different game as Forest started to play really well, with chances being created in the manner we’ve begun to get used to once more, with Reidy going the closest, not quite managing to re-create Lansbury’s goal against Bolton with a header at the far post, sending it over the bar instead. Wigan had decided to sit deep however, and began to do a passable impression of a brick wall, possibly knowing our lack of finishing skills might just help them.
We were past the half-hour mark before we managed any kind of fight-back, but shortly after an attempt by Radi sailed wide we found ourselves behind for the first time this season. More stray passes had once again allowed Fortune to dance his way through our defence before unleashing a powerful shot across goal. Credit to Darlow who got a hand to it, but with him now floored and with Gomez following up near the far post there was only one place the ball was ever going after that. The game continued much as it had done so far, and with frustration creeping in on the field, in the dugout and particularly in the North Stand housing the travelling support, changes were inevitable. Personally, I think BD made a mistake fielding the same starting eleven as last Sunday as it appeared a little too predictable.
What followed was about as frustrating as it gets, especially when away from home. Wigan were playing a physical game and getting away with it, whilst our attempts to match their style resulted in free kicks given against us, and inevitably bookings, first for Lansbury then Lichaj up against two of the worst perpetrators. Owen Coyle predictably lapped it all up on the touchline whilst the travelling support did a demolition job on him, not least for those ridiculous knee-high socks he was wearing. The fact he’s an ex-Dingle was reason enough for some vitriolic chanting at his expense at the best of times.
The game then swung back in Wigan’s favour, not least from some careless passing on our part, but more significantly due to the ineptness of the referee as the likes of Gomez and (worst of all) Espinoza drew justified abuse from the travelling fans for just about every theatrical in the book. Was Tom Daley really playing today? Amidst of all this came a clumsy trip by Hobbs on Marc-Antoine Fortune who predictably milked it for all it’s worth, though I have to admit the ref did get this one right as the penalty was given. Up steps Shaun Maloney, complete with a blatant pause mid-run (like that Portuguese player whose name I cannot mention without filthy expletives), and although Darlow got a hand to it, it was not enough to stop it crashing into the net. OK, so the lead lasted only seven minutes, it could turn into a high-scoring game of we could get our act together.
Very much the game of two halves. The ball was rarely out of our half during the opening 45, with a string of set pieces dominating the early proceedings. Our first genuine attack was very much against the run of play and after Radi was fouled in the 6th minute just outside the box, Reidy continued our succession of early goals with a beautifully curled shot, deflected slightly against the upright and into the net. It was at the far end and although initially unclear it had crossed the line the wild celebrations from 4000+ delighted Forest fans followed soon after.
|Highlights||A vast improvement on the footballing lesson this lot gave us a year ago. An early goal against the run of play gave us hope for a 4th win of the month, though it was our second half performance which was most deserving of a positive result with sustained attacks.|
|Lowlights||First half was a nightmare once we’d taken the lead, mainly through stray passes and poor refereeing decisions with Coyle’s tactics evidently trying to wind us up. Continued poor decisions in second half denied us a clear penalty, and the constant baiting (and diving) by the likes of Gomez and Espinoza was particularly unedifying.|
|Hero||Reid’s opener for his third in as many games, and along with Radi was the most creative for us. Thought Darlow was unlucky with both goals despite a solid performance.|
|Zero||Guedioura – the frequency of stray passes was our biggest downfall of the first half, and therefore little surprise he got subbed at HT. Some changes afoot next month, I think.|
|Referee||Craig Pawson - The travelling fans’ vociferous chants of ‘we always get s*** refs’ told its own story. This was without doubt an 11-versus-12 encounter, but even sections of the home support were prepared to admit they had a helping hand. Bought every Wigan player diving under a challenge, overlooked everything they did to us in return, failed to put a stop the utter gamesmanship of Gomez (on one occasion trying to get Harding sent off) and Espinoza’s blatant assassination victim impressions. Shocking performance, and his assistants were worse – overlooking a Forest throw-in with a pass to a Wigan player a whole two feet beyond the touchline.|
|Entertainment Value||5/10 – First half very much a stop-start affair, giving way to more flowing football after the break, though hard to create chances against deep defending.|
|Promotion Rating||2 – Although this may well go down as a game we could (and should) have taken at least a point from, to lie in 4th place after the fixtures we’ve just had bodes well, especially when you look at who’s currently propping up the Championship right now, added to the fact that QPR, Blackpool and The Dingles haven’t had the most challenging start to the season where fixtures are concerned. BD is probably right to inject a sense of perspective as we go into the international break though, especially since it rather interrupted our impressive form back in spring, and hopefully we’ll be sufficiently regrouped when the league resumes for the Barnsley game in two weeks’ time.|